broadsideblog

What do you remember of your childhood home(s)?

In aging, beauty, behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, life on October 26, 2013 at 1:10 am

By Caitlin Kelly

English: Carl Nielsen outside his childhood ho...

English: Carl Nielsen outside his childhood house at Nørre Lyndelse, Funen, Denmark in 1927 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This writer, a columnist for the weekend Financial Times, Harry Eyres, is one of my favorite writers. He recently wrote a poignant piece about emptying his childhood home and finally leaving it for the last time:

Strangely, I dreaded the loss of the house from a very early age. I had nightmares about it.

Leaving a
house you love is hard. Relinquishing a house where you grew up from
your earliest childhood, where you spent your first springs, summers,
autumns, winters, every one of whose corners, cupboards, creaking
staircases, floorboards and smells became almost like an extension of
your being, is harder still…

We bade farewell to the house on a perfect golden September day,
which started misty and hazy and rather mysterious before the sun broke
through. Some people had told me that it would be easier to leave the
house when it was empty, as it would have lost many of its most personal
connotations, pieces of furniture, even curtains. But I did not find it
so.

The house seemed just as beautiful as ever to me on the day of our
departure. In some ways even more beautiful, as being emptied of
furniture can restore a certain youthfulness and sense of possibility to
a dwelling. The upstairs spare room, which had become a sort of dump
before I cleared it out, hadn’t looked so inviting for decades.

We, three generations and a stalwart family friend, had a sunny
picnic on the raised terrace outside the front door, sitting on the low
wall rising up from the hydrangea beds, as there were no longer any
chairs.

I’ve only lived in a few houses with my parents, at least those I can recall.

There was one in London, when I was very small, then one in Toronto, a big brick house with a deep backyard and my bedroom at the very top, where I lay in bed and listened to the radio. I knew my mother was climbing the stairs when I heard her ankles popping. There were brilliant yellow forsythia bushes outside the kitchen window I used to call “for cynthia” — my mother’s name.

When my parents split up, and I was about seven, that was the end of that house. I miss it still.

I didn’t live in another house until eleventh grade, when I moved in with my father into a white brick house on a Toronto corner. There was a lilac tree just outside the kitchen door and a huge park behind our yard where our dog would get out and run in circles really fast, usually whenever I was having a party and it was the last thing I wanted to deal with.

Since then, after leaving that house when I was in university, I’ve never owned one nor have my parents stayed very long in any of theirs, usually only for a few years, scooping up a healthy profit, and moving into yet another. I watch the houses come and go, envious they’ve even owned a house, let alone several. I wonder if I ever will.

My father had a 200+ year-old house in Athenry, just outside Galway City, for a few years, that’s now a nursing home. I loved my few brief visits there, scything the lawn and staring out through its ancient, rippled glass panes.

When I return to visit Toronto, I often drive past that white brick house. It doesn’t look much different, even all these years later.

Jose’s childhood home was torn down and is now the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The only remainder of his life there is a tiny courtyard and the apricot tree from whose fruit his late mother once made jam.

Do you remember your childhood home?

Is it still there?

  1. I remember it used to be clean ;)

  2. I like this subject, Caitlin, as I have thought about homes a lot and what home means to me. I lived in several rented homes in Ontario before my parents bought their first one shortly before I left. We lived on acreage in Fruitland, Ontario, which provided grapes, cherries, pears, apples, peaches, etc. in the summer. That house, I think, was haunted. Then there was the old three story brick Victorian in Hamilton. I found a forgotten bed of Lily of the Valley there and that became my secret garden. There was a chestnut tree out front that shed huge mahogany chestnuts every fall. These small bits of beauty provided a little happiness in a desperate family life.

    • It sounds like the “secret garden” of the children’s book. Sorry your childhood was so miserable…and lucky you could find even a bit of relief and beauty.

  3. http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4551451038516973&w=210&h=168&c=7&rs=1&pid=1.7

    Kind of like that trailer but ours had expandable rooms that were collapsed for our travels.

    In Alaska ours was a lot smaller and looked something like this:

  4. I remember bits and pieces of most of them. I don’t remember the house I lived in St. Louis until I was 2, but after that things come together. And the house I moved into when I was 9…I lived regularly there until I left for college, only returning there for summers. I don’t think I’ll ever live there again though, at least not if my life doesn’t take a sudden turn for the unexpected.

  5. I well remember the house I grew up in till age 12. When in my early 30’s I visited the house again and it looked so small compared to how I remembered it. It was dull, boring and looked like every other property in the area. I gave a talk at my old primary school and found I didn’t feel as intimidated as I used to. I left with good memories intact but my eyes open as to what changes I’d really wrought in my life.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  6. I do. Although I only about 20 minutes from my childhood home, I find it difficult to visit because of the great memories! I want the ice-cream truck to drive up and the tons of kids on our little cul-de-sac to spill out and there be a fight over kickball. And then I remember I’m 48 hence the difficulty.

    Great post.

    • Thanks.

      I totally get that impulse…I had that experience (oddly) when I rented the top two floors of a house in Toronto in my mid-20s and made neighborhood friends, including a woman living across the street. I hadn’t had that experience since I was very young. I miss it, too!

  7. I still remember mine! I actually pass by it often and the outside is still the same except for the extra air conditioning. My favorite thing about it was the huge living roof with a tall celing. I also learned to ride my 2 wheel bike im the living room! And we had a little swimming pool in the short basement where I learned to swim! I miss that house. But this neighborhood is a lot nicely and this house now has more windows for lights from the outside.

  8. My mom is 86 and my dad is 85 and they still live in my childhood home. I still love visiting although they live in another state quite a distance from me so I only get to visit about once a year. It’s strange but I sleep more soundly when I visit them then I ever do in my own bed.

  9. I still have dreams about the houses I grew up in. I would love to tour my old first house. It’s a small house, not too far from where I live now. But in my memories it is huge. There used to be a beautiful Weeping Willow in the backyard which my mom loved. I remember trying to swing on the tree’s “vines”. Great post!

  10. My childhood home until the age of 8 was my grandmother’s home. When my family moved out of state, we took our things with us, forever changing the feel of grandma’s house. After my parents’ divorce, my childhood furniture seemed to disappear as well (amid multiple moves, upgrades and damage.). Grandma is gone, her house sold and renovated by others. Trees were felled. Brick was painted. Rosebushes were uprooted. On the rare occasion, I might see something for sale on ebay or Amazon from those years, and I have snatched those things up…such as a tiny West German cuckoo-clock or a milk glass candy dish. While not the original, they help to recreate the home in my mind’s eye.

    • Oh, this is so sad…and thank you for sharing your story.

      This really rings a bell for me as I have only one item that was my maternal grandmother’s; she “forgot” to pay any taxes to the three levels of government she owed for many years(!), so that, plus estate taxes after her death, left us with almost nothing. I love antiques and a good friend, years ago, saw the connection between my buying lovely old things and (in some way) trying to re-create a sense of family history.

  11. My parents still live in my childhood home. In fact, my mom has lived there pretty much since she was 16 (except for a few stretches). I’m not looking forward to the day when my parents are no longer there and I’ll have to do something with the house. But hopefully that won’t be for another 10-20 years. In the meantime, I look forward to visiting it, and them, at Christmas. :)

  12. My parents are still in the house they moved into in 1967, when I was 5, and where I was brought up. I moved out of home and switched cities when I was 18 – but I still visit regularly, when I can get out of Wellington.

  13. i remember moving into one small house when i was 2, then after what seemed like a very long time, (a year), moving into the house that was being built for us next door. it was the first time i’d been in a house with stairs and i could not stop going up and down them. my middle sister and i slid our silver dollars into a space behind the brick of our fireplace hearth, never to retrieve them. we had all of our birthdays there and holidays and i met my future husband when i was 4 and he moved in across the street. i told him one day i would marry him and become a teacher. he was horrified. the house is still there though many families have come and gone since we all moved out, my parents divorced and each of of went our own direction.

    • “i met my future husband when i was 4 and he moved in across the street. i told him one day i would marry him and become a teacher”

      Um…we call this “burying the lead”! :-)

      What great memories. Four?!

      • yes, at 4. i guess i always was a bit intuitive, though i didn’t know what it was at the time. turned out the marriage went bad, but we have 3 wonderful daughters, and i did not become at teacher until much later in life. never know how things will turn out, but interesting nonetheless.

      • I think it’s quite amazing you knew these things so young.

  14. The house I think of as my childhood home is still there, but lately someone changed the look of it (it was green stucco) and that ruined it for me. It is in the San Francisco Bay Area, so there is no way I could afford to buy it and live in it, but I would if I could, I think. I don’t believe we were actually there for that long, but perhaps longer than any other place we lived back then. I have vague memories mostly of being very safe and secure–of having that “all is well” feeling. There were a bunch of honeysuckle in the front yard, and lots of hummingbirds, (I remember) and a fence along one side that our cat, Kitty, would jump onto and then to the roof, and then down the chimney to get back inside on cold mornings. I’m glad you wrote this post. We recently got a kitten that looks just like Kitty and I’ve been thinking about those days.
    We moved a lot, and I have always moved a lot, and I am kind of in awe of anyone who says they lived in one house their entire childhood, moving out only when they went to college or something.

    • Love all these memories….They just spill out of us, so deeply in there.

      Honeysuckle and hummingbirds. Great combo!

      I’ve lived in 12 different homes from ages five to 30, from Toronto to Mexico to Paris to NH.

      That’s why I haven’t budged since moving into this NY apartment in 1989! :-)

      I often wonder where or when I’ll move again. Feeling a little restless.

      • I noticed you are getting more than the usual number of comments, aren’t you? That tells you something. But restless. Yes. I’ve been where I am now way too long. As Mel Brooks said, being alive should be the exact opposite of being dead.

      • I get a lot of comments on most posts…but this one is something everyone can easily relate to and is also deeply emotional, whether our memories are happy or not.

        I feel really restless these days. Not sure what the solution is, but looking a lot harder than before. Too many years doing the same things the same way. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

  15. My childhood home was purchased by a childhood friend when my folks retired. I visited once as an adult and was amazed at how small it seemed now compared to when I was young.

  16. Wow, thought provoking. I’d need to write my own post to address this question properly. And maybe I will. ;-) … Thanks for sharing. Dorothy :-)

  17. I remember my childhood home. It was an old 2 story house on Cherry Street that resembled a haunted house, after my mother left. My Dad took to drinking and much of the time, there were no lights upstairs. It became a very scary place to sleep up there: noises rustling around in the dark- critters scurrying- mice and things. I cried myself to sleep most of the time and heard stories about people who had “sheets on their beds”. It was a foreign concept to me, and, I was a chronic bedwetter. (No, I’m not making this up!) And, bad things happened up there.

    Now that I’m an adult, I look back and think, “Dear God, how did I make it through that?” Thankfully, we moved when I was thirteen. The house was torn down and still, when I think back to Cherry Street, it’s like watching an old reel of someone else’s life. Yes, you’re right. It’s a powerful topic that elicits great emotion, no doubt in many of us (if not all).

    I got a kick out of “For Cynthia”. Cute. :0) No doubt, your Mom did too. I think it’s interesting that you have such clarity and fondness of the trees in several of the places that you’ve lived.

    (Pleasure to meet you, by the way.)

    • Powerful stuff…Thanks for sharing this in such detail — and visiting and commenting! I am always delighted to hear new voices join the conversation here.

      Thank heaven you *did* survive it all…and probably a great relief that house is gone from this world. I know all too well the feeling of “watching the movie” when terrifying things happen.

      The tree thing…hmmmm. True, though. I’m very attached to trees, for some reason…I still miss trees in my current town that have been cut down or destroyed by the recent hurricanes and tornadoes.

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